03 August 2005

21. Newborn Babies

Dear newborn babies,

For what it's worth, welcome to the world. I want to apologize, over and over again, for the state it's in. I know it's not all my fault; for one thing, the way things are now is the product of everything that has come before, less than 26 years of which had me in it, but still. There's so much wrongness that most of the time I can't even think of anything to do to make anything better. I'm just one person, and there are so many people, and speaking as just one single solitary mess of a human being I get overwhelmed by my own stupid petty little problems, let alone those of the entire human race. Some days that makes me angry, some days it makes me sad, and some days it makes me wish I'd never been born. But life isn't something you can choose for yourself, little ones, which is perhaps its greatest irony. The good news is that despite the fact that life is in many ways one long cruel joke, there's a lot to enjoy. Let's start with you.

I hope, in as non-ableist a way as possible, that you're healthy, because life will be easier for you with the standard number of eyes and ears and appendages for a person of any size. Likewise, I also hope you're relatively free of genes that'll make you prone to illness, both physical and mental. But whatever state it's in, that body you've got is a marvel. People have been trying to understand it and things like it since as long as there were people, maybe longer, and there's plenty that's still a mystery. But one of the good things about being a person is there's all this history and exploring and understanding for you to build and grow on if you want to learn it. And that's getting on to the next great gift you've been given, which is your mind. You can think about anything with it, even if you can't always understand everything. Maybe someday you'll think that's pretty awesome. I sure hope so.

Now I want to take a paragraph to write about your family, by whom I mean the people you'll live with at least until you're old enough to wonder why you live with them, but probably longer. It's likely to include the people your immediate family lived with until they were old enough to wonder, too, even if they're unlikely to define their families in quite the same silly cynical and all-inclusive way I do. Anyway. What I'm going to write now is something I wish someone had told me sooner instead of leaving me to figure it out: your family are the people who will see you at your worst, and you will see them at their worst. If you're like me, and I know I am, there will be times when you will hate your family for being such a bunch of freaks, but the fact is no one's normal and everybody's pretty good at hiding it most of the time but not all of the time and comparing your insides to other people's outsides is a surefire way to make yourself feel bad about not just your insides and their outsides but the whole world in general. What's more, since your family are the people you can't hide from all the time, you'll get to know their insides a bit, and comparing what you see there to other people's outsides isn't going to be a picnic, either. Dang. None of that sounds very reassuring at all now that I've written it, but it's still important, at least to me, as a way of keeping things in perspective, and I really don't mean it in an all bad way. What else can I say about family? Well, like life, you didn't choose them, but you're mostly stuck with them, too. And at times you will love them even if they are such a bunch of freaks that it's hard to imagine that just about any other group of people would be at least as freaky if they were stuck together all the time, and I hope the times you love each other for no reason outnumber the bad times by far.

But while I'm talking about the other people in the world, I shouldn't stop with your family. Neither should you. At some point some well-meaning older person may try warning you to never talk to strangers, but like all rules, that's really just a guideline. It should be more like, "Be careful when you talk to anybody, not just strangers, but don't be too careful, because living in fear is no fun." If you never talked to strangers, you might never make any friends, and believe me, friends are way up there on the list of things that are just plain awesome about being human. Maybe more than anything else I could wish for you, I hope you'll make and cherish many good friends, and I hope they become just as close and dear and in their own way impossible to you as those family freaks I was telling you about a bit earlier.

What else? I could've sworn I had more to say than this, but then again I started this letter months ago and I didn't keep very good notes on all the topics I wanted to cover. That said, I wish you luck in training your memory and learning in general and of course figuring out ways to sort through your thoughts and decide what's important to you. There's no pause button on life, unfortunately, or I'd spend a lot of time between moments, thinking, hiding, and generally missing all the good stuff. Go ahead and live all your moments, because there's no way of knowing whether or not the life you've got is the only one you're getting, and you might as well make it a good one even if it turns out I'm wrong about reincarnation. All our lifetimes are full of countless chances to live right, and all we can do is make the most of those chances as best we can.

I know this is a silly letter to write. By the time you're able to read this, you won't be newborn anymore. Even if someone were to read it to you right now, before you got too old to be considered newborn, there's no telling how much you'd understand and absorb, much less remember. But I think about you, little ones, and it fills me with a mix of envy, and relief, and hope, and despair, and love. I guess that's life. Again, for what it's worth, welcome to it.

And happy birthday.


P.S. I tried to write this letter in the most general terms possible, but I would be a big liar if I said the idea of writing it arose full-formed in my brain, unprovoked by events in my world. That said, "Dear Newborn" is dedicated to Stony Raine Lohr III and her parents, Stony and Janelle, on her birthday, 5 February 2005, even if it took me a really long time to write. Hey rugrat: good job on those teeth! I was sort of arbitrarily waiting till you'd been around 6 months, but I appreciate the reminder that it's well past time I declared this letter done and sent it out.

Started 10 February 2005, text updated 14 October 2005, title abridged 1 December 2011. Reformatted 8 September 2013, last updated 6 June 2014.